Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals: The Basics

Many people are familiar with service animals. These animals, which must be either a large dog or a small horse, are specifically trained to assist people with disabilities, such as blindness, deafness, epilepsy, paralysis, and more. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person may qualify for a service animal if they have a condition that limits or makes it difficult to perform an important life activity.  Animals that assist people with these disabilities are protected by law, and may enter establishments and homes that otherwise do not allow animals. Usually, a service animal is required to wear an identifying vest with a pocket to carry its paperwork, and though it can be tempting to pet and cuddle these furry helpers, the public is discouraged from doing so, as it can distract the animal from its job.

Disability animals have been around for years, and are not going anywhere anytime soon. However, a more recent development in providing support for people with disabilities are animals that are designated “Emotional Support Animals.” These animals can be any type of domesticated animal such as a cat, bird, rabbit, even rats and snakes! Unlike service animals, ESAs do not require any training, as their presence alone provides comfort and relaxation for people with emotional and/or psychological disabilities, such as depression, general anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. One major difference between ESAs and service animals is that, while service animals cannot legally be denied entrance to any establishment, ESAs are not protected by any law other than the Fair Housing Act. Basically, this means that a shopping mall or convenience store can deny you the right to bring your Emotional Support Animal inside with you, but if you are living in an apartment building or house that does not allow pets, that requirement must be waived so that your furry friend can live with you and continue to provide support.

How Do I Get Approved for an ESA?

In order for an animal to qualify as an ESA, the owner must have an emotional disability, as diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist. Once an owner is diagnosed, his/her psychiatrist must write a letter that states that the patient is being treated for an emotional disability or disorder, that this disorder limits the patient’s daily life, and that an ESA has been prescribed as part of an ongoing treatment plan. An ESA is almost always prescribed in addition to therapy and medication, if necessary, as a supplement to treatment as opposed to the only treatment. Additionally, the letter must include the psychiatrist’s license type, number, and date of issue.

What Are the Downsides?

While there are many benefits to having an Emotional Support Animal, it is still a system that is trying to work out the kinks. For example, while service dogs are highly trained to be obedient and perform their jobs, ESAs do not have to undergo any training and, therefore, can cause behavioral problems in public spaces. Additionally, on the tier of disabilities, a condition requiring a service dog takes priority over someone who may have an allergy to that animal. On a college campus, for example, if two students are assigned to the same class and one has a service dog while the other is allergic to dogs, the student with the allergy will be moved to another class. ESAs do not have this same type of protection. This means that college campuses can exclude them from coming anywhere on campus except for the dorms, as living accommodations are protected under the Fair Housing Act. Similarly, public places like shopping malls, grocery stores, libraries, and other places that generally do not allow animals do not have to make an exception for ESAs.

Another concern is that people are requesting ESAs who do not actually need them. Because ESAs are a relatively new concept and not everyone is familiar with the rules, there are some sites online that will, for a fee, provide a form stating that an ESA is needed. People use these types of services in order to get around any “no pets” policies in their living situations, as the ESAs cannot be denied.

The Gist

Even though the system is not perfect, there are still huge benefits to having Emotional Support Animals prescribed for those with emotional disabilities. They have been proven to be effective in helping patients improve their self-esteem, social skills, motivation, and comfort levels. A scientific fact is that being around animals triggers a “feel-good” hormone called oxytocin. Because of this, ESAs can even be an alternative to mood altering medications.

The medical field is making great strides toward improving treatment for mental illness. There is little doubt that, eventually, Emotional Support Animals will be as widespread as trained service dogs.

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Adventure hikes for dogs!

It’s no secret that pet owners in Denver adore our services like dog walking, pet sitting, and grooming—but we crave adventure here at Zoologie Pet Services, and are always on the hunt for exciting new ways to grow. That’s why we are ecstatic to announce our newest program: Adventure hikes for dogs! We’ll take your furry friend out to the best dog-friendly hiking trails in the area and make sure they get tons of breed specific exercise.

Dog hikes are the perfect way to ensure your dog is getting the exercise they need. When dogs don’t get enough exercise, it often leads to undesirable behaviors including excessive barking, chewing, and even health complications. Also, dogs are social creatures and providing adequate interaction will go a long way toward keeping your best bud happy and healthy.

Our “tour guides” are trained and certified to responsibly taking care of your pet. We give frequent breaks for fresh water and all dogs are brushed and toweled down before they return home to you. We’re always on the lookout for a good photo op, so get ready to swoon over adorable pictures of your dog having the time of their life.

We are currently offering three-hour hikes for $50, with each additional dog for only $25. If you take advantage of our special introductory rate, you’ll also receive a 50 percent discount for the hike! Please feel free to contact us with any questions—We would be happy to accommodate you!

Here are some of the trails we frequent:

1. Elk Meadow Off-Leash Area in Evergreen

The off-leash area is located right up the hill from the rest of Elk Meadow Park. This trail features some cool rocks to climb on and epic views of both 14ers and foothills. The best part is, no leash required, as long as your pup has the necessary shots and is safe around people and dogs.

2. Red Rocks Trail at Red Rocks Park

When Red Rocks isn’t serving as Denver’s premier entertainment spot for all things music, it doubles as a cool place to work out and hike. While this may not be quite as much fun as the off-leash spots, there are a variety of different paths we take, so there’s something for both the athletic labrador puppy and the laid back basset hound alike.

3. Bear Creek Trail in Lair O’ the Bear Park

While this is not an off-leash trail, it is still an awesome option. The variety of paths to take here will keep them running around for hours. Plus, most dogs love water and the added attraction of the creek running along the trail is a fun way for them to cool off during the warmer season.

4. Meadowlark Trail Loop in Littleton

This trail is within Jefferson County Open Space, and is a slightly longer, yet easier hike that crosses a creek and gets some awesome views of the mountains and foothills in the distance. This is the perfect solution for an older dog or beginning hiker.

5. Frazer Meadow Trail in Golden

Located inside glorious Golden Gate Canyon State Park, this three-hour hike offers four different trails for varying levels of proficiency, and awesome views of nearby and far away mountain peaks, the beautiful surrounding forests, and majestic meadows running through the park. Your dog will be entertained by all the space to run around.

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Pet allergies 101

You’re probably well aware of the discomforts that come with allergies, whether they’re seasonal or situational. However, you might be surprised to learn that your favorite furry friend can suffer from allergies just like people do. Can you imagine being itchy and sneezing while covered in fur? Pets depend on their humans for a variety of needs, including treatment for conditions that affect their health or quality of life.

Allergy symptoms flare up when the immune system recognizes a contaminant as potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, even everyday household items can set off symptoms in particularly sensitive animals. There are several breeds of dogs that are especially prone to allergies, including Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, Boxers, Shepherds, Beagles, Pugs, and Bulldogs.

It’s important to find the cause of pet’s allergies since treatments that only mask the symptoms can lose their effectiveness over time. Allergies also tend to worsen as the animal ages, and certain allergy treatments are most effective for younger pets, so early intervention is critical. Untreated allergies may result in “hot spots” from excessive licking and scratching, along with secondary bacterial infections.

What is causing your pet’s allergies?

Allergens trigger a reaction in one of four ways:

  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion
  • Skin contact
  • Flea allergy dermatitis

The things that animals are allergic to share a lot in common with human allergies. Nearly anything can be a potential trigger, including pollen, molds, dust, dander, feathers, smoke, types of food, prescription/over-the-counter drugs, flea saliva, perfumes, cleaning products, and certain shampoos.

Getting a diagnosis of your pet’s allergies

Your vet will want to know what symptoms you have observed, so be sure to note any excessive scratching, runny eyes, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, unusual snoring, swollen paws, or paw chewing. Try to remember if you introduced anything new into your pet’s environment around the time their allergies started.

After a thorough exam, your vet will be able to decide if any additional tests are necessary. They may recommend a blood test, skin test, or elimination diet to identify what is causing your pet’s allergies. Please do not attempt an elimination diet without the guidance of a knowledgeable vet.

Treatment options for your cat or dog

After consulting with your vet and determining what is causing your pet’s allergies, you’ll be ready to start a treatment plan. Here are some of the most common remedies:

Immunotherapy: After the skin test, a series of shots are administered that gradually desensitize your pet’s system. It has a high success rate and takes 6-9 months to become effective.

Elimination Diet: Your pet is fed a strict prescription diet until their system is entirely clear of allergens. Food items are introduced one at a time to identify which item is an issue for your pet. After the diet is over, your vet will recommend a safe and well-balanced diet.

Antihistamines: These are given to relieve allergy symptoms. They’re not very effective, and your pet can build up a tolerance very quickly. Quercetin supplements can act as a natural antihistamine but shouldn’t be given to animals with kidney issues.

Steroids: In some cases, your vet may recommend suppressing your pet’s immune system to relieve their allergy symptoms. This option comes with increased risk, but it is important to consider if necessary for your pet’s quality of life.

Itch Relief: There are products are available to relieve severe itching, including fatty acid supplements and soothing sprays. Frequent baths or wipe-downs will help with most non-food allergies. If you don’t have time to give your dog a daily bath after their walk, please contact us—We provide grooming transportation services and work exclusively with our preferred groomer in Denver.

Final thoughts and preventative measures

Feed your pet a well-balanced diet—They need diversity and can develop sensitivities to eating the same food over an extended period of time. We recommend a raw or homemade diet over commercial food since you’ll be less likely to encounter common allergens and contaminants. Avoid over-vaccinating your pet, as this can lead to a hyperactive immune system and inflammation of allergy symptoms.

Addressing your pet’s allergies will give you and your four-legged friend a great peace of mind. Even though the road to recovery can be a bit of a journey, the look of gratitude in your pet’s eyes is guaranteed to make it all worthwhile.


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Pet safety on New Year’s Eve

It’s time to watch the ball drop again and ring in a new year, but don’t forget to secure your pets before the party starts. It’s not unusual for animal shelters to see three times more lost pets than normal after New Years. The most common issue is animals will run away when they feel freaked out enough, and there’s plenty to freak out even the most even-tempered pet during this time of year.

We don’t want you to start 2017 with a tragedy—read on to find out how to reduce noise-anxiety and keep your pets safe during this New Year’s Eve.

Plan ahead for your pet’s comfort

If you’re going out to a loud event or fireworks display, it is probably best to leave your furry loved ones at home. It’s also a good idea to avoid bringing your pet along to places where dangerous food and drink might be available to them. Click here to read our guide on how long your pet can be safely left at home alone.

If you’re having a party at your place, consider blocking off a quiet room so your pet can take shelter. You can also make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise before the sun goes down, so that hopefully they’ll be too exhausted to get anxious.

Reduce your pet’s anxiety

If your pet is crate-trained, leaving them in their crate with plenty of water is one of the best ways to create a feeling of safety. You can also confine your cat or dog in a small room where they cannot get into much mischief. Playing calm music or using a white noise machine can go a long way to calming down your pet. If you have time, look into desensitization training to help your pet stay calm during noisy celebrations.

There are supplements and treats available to help lessen anxiety in cats and dogs. We recommend rubbing a small amount of lavender oil on your pet’s collar, or stopping by one of Denver’s many independent pet stores to stock up on supplies. Mouthfuls (4224 Tennyson St) offers various treats and CBD supplements. You can also check out Simpawtico (4500 W 38th Ave, Suite 110) to pick up a new toy or puzzle to keep your furry buddies occupied. Pro Tip: A little peanut butter or catnip can go a long way.

Prepare for the worst

Even the best-laid plans can sometimes come undone, so it’s always best to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Make sure your pet’s ID tags and microchip are up to date, especially if you have recently moved or changed your phone number. Have current pictures of your pet from various angles ready, just in case they manage to slip away from you somehow.

If your dog is a huge flight risk, dress them in a sweater for the night so they’ll stay warm if they happen to get lost. Never run after your pet in pursuit—they think you’re chasing them and will run faster. Just calmly walk or drive after your pet, calling their name and offering food or treats if possible.

Final thoughts…

You know your cat or dog better than anyone, so consider your individual situation when making plans. Every situation is different. If you adopted a new pet over the holidays and are still getting to know them, be sure to check back here next week for our guide to taking care of new pets.

Do you need a last minute pet-sitter or dog-walker? Give us a call—we can help with all that and more!

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